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08 July 2018, 07:20 | Anna Jefferson
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Rescuers in Thailand have kicked off an operation to pull 12 members of a junior football team and their coach from a flooded cave that they've been in for over two weeks, the head of the rescue mission has announced.
That was nearly a week ago, and a Thai navy seal has died trying to rescue the players.
Three boys were evacuated Sunday out of the cave in Thailand where a young soccer team has been trapped, according to a member of the rescue team.
Thirteen medical teams were stationed outside the cave on Sunday - each with its own helicopter and ambulance - one for each of 12 boys and their coach.
"Today is the D-Day for the rescuers", saidNarongsak Osottanakorn, the outgoing governor of Chiang Rai province.
Each of the boys will be paired up with two trained divers, and it will take at least 11 hours for the first person to be brought out.
They became trapped in the cave, a local tourist spot where similar incidents have taken place in the past, when sudden rainfall flooded its entry on June 23. The team and coach were exploring the cave after a practice game when heavy rainfall and flooding cut off their escape route out of the cave and prevented rescuers from finding them for nearly 10 days.
Mr Narongsak said that the rescue operation could take a number of days or be halted at any time.
Jake Zweig said on "Fox & Friends" that he was confident in the SEALs working to rescue the 12 boys and their coach, but that there is a possibility of a rescuer losing his life. When they come out they want to eat many things.
The rescue began 10am local time, shortly after officials cleared the area surrounding the cave in readiness for the rescue operation. "It's been 16 days, and today we finally got to see the Wild Boars' faces", he said, referring to the name of their soccer team.
An "all-star" team of 18 divers entered the caves this afternoon as the boys and their families were notified of the development.
The rescue got off to a good start, with the first boy coming out at 5.40pm local time (11.40am United Kingdom time). Engineers have been searching for a way through the mountain's surface, hoping to drill down and reach them within the cave, but acknowledge it could take months and alter the cave's geography in the process.
It was reported that heavy rain was falling at the media centre, around a mile from the cave entrance, which could scupper plans to get the boys out today.
The entire operation to rescue all 13 could last two to four days, depending on weather and water conditions, said army Maj.
Mr Narongsak said the boys and their coach, Ekkapol Chantawong are physically and mentally fit for the rescue bid.
The identity of the first boys is unknown, as if whether any more are following soon. "We can not wait any longer".
The Thai Navy said Saturday three navy SEALs, one a doctor, were with the boys and coach.
The rescue operation to retrieve 12 schoolboys and their football coach trapped deep underground in a Thai cave is underway. If that appears likely to happen, Narongsak said, officials could proceed with an underwater rescue. The plan was to have the boys swim out of the cave with the help of divers. He says the earliest they will come out is 9 p.m. Sunday (10 a.m. ET).
Divers have brought the boys "food, electrolyte drinks, drinking water, medicine and oxygen canisters", the AP reports.
One volunteer, an expert diver, died Thursday while laying spare air tanks along the escape route through narrow, winding flooded passages.
The rescue mission began after rain showers soaked the Tham Luang Cave area in northern Chiang Rai province for the past 24 hours, heightening the risks in what the governor has called a "war with water and time" to save the team.
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